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John Deere to celebrate 100 years of tractors

By Staff | Mar 9, 2018

John Deere entered into the tractor manufacturing business in 1918 with the purchase of the Waterloo Gasoline Company. The Waterloo Boy, shown here was manufactured until 1923.



The John Deere company will celebrating its 100-year anniversary of entering into the tractor business starting next week with a 100 days of celebrations.

Tiffany Turner, product manager for large tractors of John Deere Co., said John Deere wasn’t on the forefront of the tractor manufacturing business as many believe.

The first tractors were built at the turn of the century. They were too heavy for most farmers to use as well as too expensive.

A part of celebrating 2018 as “The Year of the Tractor”?will feature 100 days of celebrations which include the rich history of John Deere and the beginning of them entering into the tractor manufacturing business. Here is a vintage photo of the Waterloo Boy, John Deere’s first tractor.

The Waterloo Gasoline Company came out with two versions of a tractor in 1911 that proved to be more economical and smaller.

“They were lighter weight and easier to afford,” said Turner.

Soon thereafter, John Deere was given the opportunity to enter into the tractor business, but Turner said with a severe drought, low sales and a war, they didn’t want to jump that hurdle.

“In 1915, company president William Butterworth, who was son-in-law to Charles Deere, made the decision they were not getting into the tractor business,” she said. “But I think that was a great simulation of where strategy and collaboration within Deere really showed reward.”

A two-day board meeting eventually overruled him and John Deere officially entered into the tractor business on March 14, 1918, with the purchase of the Waterloo Gasoline Company for $2.25 million.

John Deere stepped into a saturated market, Turner said, with 186 different tractor manufacturers on the scene by the early 1920s.

John Deere left the Waterloo Gasoline Company’s labels on the tractors until 1923 when they came out with their own, fully John Deere-branded Model D.

“That is where things really started,” she said. “When you think about the evolution, John Deere wasn’t started as a tractor company, and almost didn’t get into the business.”

An example of the evolution of 100 years of tractors is the start of the Waterloo Boy, a 25 horsepower belt-powered tractor, to now, in 2018, John Deere offers a 620 engine horsepower tractor.


100 days of celebrations will being on March 14 where the city of Waterloo is going to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Tractor and Engine Museum.

John Deere employees will have the opportunity to visit other factories as part of the celebrations, in addition to several other internal activities.

The main celebration will be June 15 and 16.

“This is going to be a huge celebration,” Turner said. “Starting at 3 p.m. on the 15th in downtown Waterloo, we are basically shutting the town down.”

There will be live entertainment for all ages as well as a display of 100 years of tractors.

“It’s really going to have John Deere history,” she said. “We will be driving the history that every tractor has a story. It will be a great way to celebrate Father’s Day weekend and, if you haven’t visited the Tractor Engine Museum, I encourage people to come through.”

Factory tours will also be available on June 15.

John Deere Journal is featuring stories on the history of the John Deere tractor and every Thursday will be “Throwback Thursday” on John Deere’s social media sites.

“This will take people on the journey of the historical aspects and it is amazing to hear the stories from people,” Turner said.

She also suggested people reach out to their local dealers, as some of them are hosting events.

John Deere will also be featured at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The museum’s American Enterprise exhibition will mark 2018 as the year of the tractor.

According to John Deere, the museum’s 1918 green, yellow and red Waterloo Boy tractor will be installed at the entrance of the business history exhibition in January. Within the exhibition, a new display on precision farming will examine a more contemporary story of disruptive technology in today’s agriculture industry with the use of technology including a GPS antenna donated by John Deere.

“John Deere is excited the Smithsonian has chosen to present one of Deere’s most iconic tractors in the context of technological change in America,” said Neil Dahlstrom, manager of corporate history and archives at John Deere. “The display provides an opportunity to educate the public about the importance of agricultural innovation.”

In addition, the State Historical Museum of Iowa, in Des Moines, will feature John Deere tractors and equipment to tell the story of the last 100 years of agriculture in Iowa.

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